Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Buenos Aires (Episode Two)

7 November. Breakfast time.

Ooh, lots of comments, by the standards of these pages anyway. We do like comments even if they mean

- looking for tractors for Alan (none yet)
- remembering to photograph the occasional meal for Robert and Lyn (aka Brexton T)
- trying to find interesting number plates, and anything else contentious, for Alan S
- HMP3 will be pleased to spot anything sophisticated or linguistic - that's a tough call!
- Alistair P and others will be happy to see some nice pictures - I'll keep trying
- Wuxing Nick will no doubt be keen to see if we follow any of his suggestions, which are received with thanks even if we don't take them up
Jenny (aka Nightbird) will be delighted to discover that we have followed one of her suggestions
- Louise, Conrad, Gibson, JJ and others are easy to please. We just hope you continue to enjoy following our travels.

Blogging from here in BA is very easy as there is wifi in the lounge of the hostel, but we don't think this will be the case when we leave the city, so there may over the coming weeks be long gaps between transmissions. Please bear with us - we enjoy writing this diary at least as much as you enjoy reading it. Or we wouldn't bother!

Last night we learnt about the eating regime in Buenos Aires. After virtually fasting since breakfast we sought an evening meal. Not as easy as it sounds. Lots of folk out shopping; snack bars, McDonalds and Burger King. Eventually, after 5 km of wandering we resorted to a quiet and very mediocre pizzeria next to the hostel. That's not the way to do it. Today would be different, or so we promised ourselves as I jotted these notes whilst enjoying a hearty buffet breakfast at the hostel.

BA bikes was our first destination. About a kilometre from the hostel, but not far enough for my Garmin gadget to get to grips with some unfamiliar satellites.

The  bikes, pictured somewhere above, are true Tour de France quality. Mine has 30 gears, operated by adjusting my weight on the saddle. The traffic here is so gentle and considerate that we didn't bother with helmets, relying on our sun hats for protection. Designated bike lanes make travel easy, despite some wide roads. I counted thirteen lanes of traffic at one point.

Black and yellow taxis buzz around like adolescent teenagers, reminding me a little of Alexandria, but far less frantic, and the vehicles here are newer and less dented than their Egyptian cousins.

Meanwhile, police cars tour the streets sedately, even when flashing their bright blue warnings. They are Ford Mondeos with specially fitted rubber bumpers extending their length by over a foot, front and rear. I failed to spot any interesting number plates. Duh!

Our first port of call was the Cemetery.  Tomb City. Resting place of many of the great and good of Argentina. The biographies or obituaries of those ensconced in this place could extend to many volumes. Eva Peron is the most celebrated inhabitant.

A visit to a huge metallic petal, Floralis Generica, followed. An information board indicates it was built by Lockheed in 2002. Apparently the petals close at night.

Café Martinez provided a good lunch - Ceasar salad con pollo all round. Not quite the 'set meal' that we intended, but more than a good snack. Given last night's experience, and based on research, we decided to make lunch our main meal of the day, with beer and snacks later, rather than forlornly seeking an early evening restaurant, if such a facility exists here!

A short pedal from the café found us at the Japanese Garden, one of the biggest outside Japan and rather more cheerful than the cemetery. A lazy wander, admiring the vast numbers of giant carp and bonsai trees, was punctuated by an arresting halt outside an ice cream stall. Every man and his baby were out today, enjoying the hot spring weather. 28C again. The pace of life in this city seems a bit more relaxed than the northern hemisphere franticity we are more used to. Here everyone seems calmer; screaming children and barking dogs don't feature.

The trees that aren't already in leaf are bursting forth with spigots of green. Parrots in the foliage remind us of Wythenshawe Park on a sunny Saturday morning. Pigeons fight over their mistresses, until a sliver of bread distracts them. Tree sparrows peck, cormorants eye up the carp (too big, they settle for something smaller). South American species of dove, thrush and starling settle for anything available.

Our bike ride, which turned out to be around 26 km if the gadget can be relied upon, continued into a vast area of parkland, complete with boating lake, rose garden, myriads of cyclists and skaters, rock bands, and what seemed like a considerable proportion of Buenos Aires' population, all enjoying the sunny day.

The place is littered with statues, sculptures and memorials. Too many to mention in any detail. We returned to the hostel via Torre de los Ingleses, a 75 metre high tower given to the Argentines by the local British community when the two nations were as friendly as they should be now. It was to commemorate the centenary of the May 1810 independence revolution, and was built largely from materials shipped from the UK. After the Falklands war its official name was changed to Torre Monumental,  but many people, including the publisher of our street map, still refer to it by its original name. Perhaps some Argentinians are as indifferent to the Falklands as some of us across the ocean.

Nearing the hostel, our way was blocked by two parades. First, a massive Gay Parade. We skirted around the pink buses and embracing couples, before coming upon a Drum Parade on Mexico Street. It's still going on; we can hear it from our window as I write this long after 7 pm. The bit we saw featured gyrating dancing girls in black underwear, followed by a posse of brightly coloured drummers. It was, and still is, very noisy. Perhaps they are going round in circles!

I'll leave the identity of today's pictures to your imagination. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

Buenos Aires

6 November. 

The airport could be one servicing any big city. Bus tickets are easily obtained, then we inadvertently skip to the front of the queue as our bags seem to fit best. So after a ten second wait we find ourselves heading into 'town', which is apparently the second biggest conurbation in South America.

We pass walled enclaves, then dirt coloured tower blocks, before our five lane motorway passes through a less prosperous area where the unfinished buildings briefly take on a middle-eastern aura and the footbridges are judiciously caged. Then, closer to the centre, smarter tower blocks, skyscrapers, statues, traffic jams, and the paraphernalia of a modern city centre, to the TiendaLeón bus depot.

The bus service from the airport extends to a second taxi. This takes us to the door of our destination, America Del Sur Hostel. A friendly place where we dump our bags and down cokes before setting off for a stroll.

The city has no particular distinguishing features aside from streets lined with what appear to be the tips of warheads. These are effective safeguards for pedestrians in the absence of raised pavements on the beautifully cobbled streets.

"Cambio" was the word we were waiting to hear, signifying an enclave of money changers. These people apparently offer much better rates than banks - we just hope the guy we used didn't dump a load of counterfeit notes on us. I couldn't tell the difference when the girls at the hostel were explaining how to identify dodgy notes, but whilst I was counting, Sue checked a few watermarks and reckoned we should take the risk (14.7 pesos to the US $, as opposed to around 10 from a bank).

Plaza de Mayo provided a place of calm amongst office workers and tourists. Surrounded by magnificent buildings and monuments, below a burning sun that was orbited by a 'Sun Dog'. We have left the warm English autumn and found the hot Argentinian spring. 28C here at lunch time. Not that we needed any lunch after Air France's more than ample breakfast and an extra dinner in the middle of the night.

By the time we'd admired the vast cathedral and enjoyed a long coffee, it was time to return to recover our stuff from the hostel's luggage locker and claim our room for the next three nights. It's a very comfortable en-suite offering with a shower that's much better than ours at home.

We are on holiday. I finished reading the book I started yesterday - Cathy Reichs' 'Grave Secrets' (Temperance Brennan 5), set in Guatemala where some of our friends will shortly be visiting. More appropriate for our own trip is my next book - Bruce Chatwin's 'In Patagonia'.

The picture above the Sun Dog is of Casa Rosada, a presidential palace beside Plaza de Mayo, sued as a preaching pedestal by people like Eva Peron and Galtieri when they sought public support. There was no preaching today; perhaps they are waiting for the flower beds to be planted.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

A South American Adventure - The Journey Commences

5 November. Bonfire Night. It always rains. So we are off. A last glance of autumn on the Bridgewater Canal. Next time it will be in winter raiment.

Mike kindly drops us at Terminal 3. We fly to Paris before an overnight journey to Buenos Aires, from where I hope the next posting will be transmitted.

Please don't expect regular postings. We really aren't sure what to expect. We will be taking a few snaps, some of which will be presented at Hazel Grove Civic Centre on Wednesday 27 April next year. 8pm - see you there? 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A Weekend in Leyburn – 30 October to 1 November 2015

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This was a weekend for my ‘Pyrenean Friends’ and a few others deserving a treat, based at Collett’s lovely B&B in Leyburn in the Yorkshire Dales.

Some of us are pictured above outside the lodge on Saturday morning, but fifteen of us had arrived in time for some stew on Friday night, followed by the launch of my book, which is a companion volume to my offering in 2013. The following two images should be self explanatory.

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Copies are available for £10 including UK P&P, but I won’t be able to despatch them until after 17 December. (The next post will explain why.)

Let me know if you’d like a copy.

Time is tight, so this posting is basically a pictorial summary of the weekend.

Autumn colours were vibrant despite the overcast day.

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It was warm though – shorts and t-shirt weather. Sheila had recently acquired a ‘very good value’ ‘Selfie Stick’. It worked whilst we enjoyed elevenses with cake.

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Bolton Castle hove into view, warranting a close inspection from all but Alan S, who headed straight for the Bolton Arms in the hope that JJ would be in wait, propping up the bar.

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A dog walker on the lane leading to the castle pointed out this dragon, which believe it or not we may otherwise have walked past!

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By now, Conrad and Graham had slipped away muttering something like – “I think we’ll follow the scent of that Black Sheep”.

The rest of us admired the ancient (14th century) ramparts of Bolton Castle, in the delightful hamlet of Castle Bolton.

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Lunch was taken on a stone bench, then we headed off to a suitable rendezvous point. Richard discovered he’d over-indulged, and we wondered how Conrad’s wonky knees had managed to negotiate this narrow squeeze…

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There were lots of mushrooms and fungi in evidence this weekend, including those shown below.

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(There were plentiful field mushrooms should anyone have been collecting.)

Autumn colours were many and varied.

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The stroll to Redmire soon saw us re-united with our walking eleven, and Ali and Sue B who had come by train, outside the Bolton Arms, where Black Sheep bitter was flowing in a flavoursome sort of way.

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Soon, even JJ strode into view. No pub gathering is complete without JJ. We stayed a while longer.

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Eventually we managed to extricate ourselves from Redmire’s fleshpots, leaving the village past this magnificent tree.

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Beyond Preston-under-Scar, the superb path along beautifully named Leyburn Shawl afforded fine views up Wensleydale into the glare of the setting sun.

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Back at base at 4.30pm, we had plenty of time for tea and the excellent cakes provided by Henry, Graham and Kirstie at Eastfield Lodge, before another sociable evening.

Here’s our route for the day - 21 km with 300+ metres ascent, taking 6.5 hours.

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Dinner was provided, on Henry’s recommendation, by ‘Thirteen’, where Michael’s food was great and Sarah’s front of house skills were immaculate.

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Mick and Gayle had been absent for the walk due to their need to make a hospital visit. We were pleased to see them return with smiles on their faces.

Sunday morning saw most folk head off in various directions, leaving just six of us to enjoy a November walk in what seemed like baking heat.

As yesterday, we set off from the Lodge.

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This time we headed towards the racehorse village of Middleham.

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The River Ure was crossed via castellated Middleham Bridge, seen here in the distance.

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Grassy slopes with a carpet of closely knit cobwebs led up to the village.

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Elevenses, and a pause to reflect. Just four of us now, as JJ and German Martin had sped off to Manchester.

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The carpet of cobwebs isn’t visible from this angle.

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Trees laden with berries feature strongly at this time of year.

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Middleham, with brightly coloured houses and a 12th Century castle.

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Then it was a long uphill stroll beside the gallops of Middleham Low Moor, where we noticed a two legged ‘horse’ trying in vain to ‘gallop’.

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Then a descent down Naylor’s Hill led to a perfect lunch spot with fine views across the valley.

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The Ure was re-crossed at Wensley Bridge, for an easy walk through Wensley and back up to Leyburn past trees in fine autumn fettle.

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The church at Leyburn is virtually next to Eastfield Lodge. The conclusion of a lovely stroll in the best of company.

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Here’s our route - 16 km, with 300 metres ascent, taking 5 hours.

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I’m afraid time has deprived you, dear reader, of a slideshow to accompany this rather prosaic and hastily compiled record of what was a really delightful weekend.

Thanks go to everyone who came, and to the providers of various items – gin, beer, wine, etc when what we brought ran out, and special thanks to Graham B for his liberal donations of apples, jams and chutneys.

Shall I go ahead and book it for next year?